It turns out there will be a few square feet for lease in the Pinecroft Business Park later this year.
Last Monday, it was announced that Itronix, a fixture on the Spokane high-tech scene since it spun off from Liberty Lake-based Itron in 1992, will be closing its Spokane Valley operations center, translating into the loss of around 300 jobs.
General Dynamics, which purchased Itronix from Golden Gate Capital, a private equity firm, in August 2005, will keep approximately 20 sales and support positions in the Spokane area, according to company spokeswoman Frans Jacques. Another 60 employees will be offered jobs at the General Dynamics new plant in Sunrise, Fla., with most of the transition expected to be complete by July 8.
A total of 380 workers are based in the Itronix site on Mirabeau Parkway, making the site one of the largest employers in the city of Spokane Valley.
Itronix, best known for manufacturing durable wireless computers for mobile workers, moved to the100,000-square-foot custom-made building in 2006 after consolidating offices in downtown Spokane and Liberty Lake. The operations center was located on 11.5 acres of land in the eight-campus business park off North Pines Road. The agreement also included another five acres of land for future expansion.
Jacques said the decision had less to do with the turbulent economy than a shift in General Dynamics’ manufacturing approach.
“It was a difficult meeting Monday,” said Jacques, who was in town several days as part of the General Dynamics contingent. “The company has decided to streamline the way we make rugged mobile computers.”
After the announcement was made on Feb. 23, Rep. Matt Shea, who represents the legislative district where Itronix is located, issued a press release critical of the state’s “hostile business climate” describing it as “a barrier that discourages companies from locating in Washington and existing businesses from expanding.”
“Through the years, Itronix has been a good and reliable contributor to the community and an integral part of the area’s business environment,” Shea said.
“Losing these well-paying jobs hurts workers, families and local businesses, not only in Spokane Valley, but the whole region.”
Jacques downplayed the state’s role in the move, saying “it wasn’t a factor for us at all.”
Meanwhile, the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce is working to do its part to help Itronix workers displaced by the plant closure, according to chamber CEO Eldonna Shaw. The chamber is organizing an outplacement program that will provide support and resources to former employees in an effort to identify jobs in the Spokane area.
“We want to keep these people in the community,” Shaw said.
The program is one of several outreach efforts launched by the chamber in light of the economic downturn. Area employment postings will soon be added to the organization’s Web site.
Spokane Valley Mayor Richard Munson called the Itronix closure “a big loss to the community,” but expressed hope that the shift would mean “an opportunity for another business to move into a great location.”
“I’m not sure this says a lot about the local economy or the ability of this area to sustain business,” Munson said. “This was about consolidating operations. I just feel sorry for the employees. You have people who’ve worked there since the business got started.”
Since General Dynamics was leasing the building, the city of Spokane Valley will not lose property tax revenue because of the closure.